Chalk N Duster - Review
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Chalk N Duster comes across as a personal film. As in the writer/director/producer has either had a teacher in his life who he wanted to pay a tribute to or know of a teacher or two who have been insulted by the people who make education a business. The unempathatic attitude towards teachers in general is attacked with single-minded focus. While not a bad premise in itself, the discrepancies within the theme and real life are too large to stop nagging for even one minute of the film.
The film is set in a private school where real-life teachers are treated much better than the way shown in the film. The issues of the teachers in government schools are not addressed at all. Which is alright, if the story is about a private school. But then, it doesn't stay a story of a private school but becomes one in which the common man gets involved and there is huge drama with teachers having to take a test.
I haven't been able to wrap my head around the logical flow of the premise though. If the matter is of national interest, it is a social issue. If the issue is social, then the representative example used to resemble something in real life. In which case, a private school with ample funding doesn't fit the bill. Here we completely ignore the fact that most real-life teachers aren't really great teachers. This is also the opportune place to mention the irony of the 'and' in the film's title being spelt as 'n'. Is that the makers' way of saying their methods are not outdated?
As with any movie that doesn't make logical sense, you accept the premise and focus on the execution. There too Chalk N Duster fails big time. Too much time is spent in coloring the vamp darker and darker. Even if we resist complaining about the time spent in making the victimized teachers good at heart and loving by nature, the mechanisms used to demonstrate these are sappy and unengaging.
Despite all of the above, the film manager to tug you emotionally for a bit in the second half. When villains are all black, they have to be menacing and capable of all things inhuman. Divya Dutt as the principal, Kamini Sharma manages to make you hate her within the first few seconds of screen time. Similarly, Shabana Azmi evokes enough sympathy to root for her character, Mrs. Sawant. So restrained is her performance in a role that could have been laden with drama that Juhi Chawla's controlled (non-shrieking), Jyoti.
This is all soon undone with a ridiculous climax. To start with, it reinforces the Indian education system's obsession with rote learning. Then there's testing the teacher's knowledge instead of teaching skills. Lastly, the concept itself is too lame for the amount of buildup towards the climax.
Save a few good performances then, Chalk N Duster is just another story about honest, diligent workers vs. big, bad management; about the common man vs. the system. Other than the 'education' angle there is nothing new, which is a shame because this angle actually has a lot of scope to be novel. Especially when it was in the capable hands of Shabana Azmi, Juhi Chawla and Divya Dutta.
- meeta, a part of the audience
- Violence: None
- Language: Clean
- Nudity & Sexual content: None
- Concept: The apathy towards teachers
- General Look and Feel: The kind typical of a film made on low budgets.
Chalk N Duster - Trailer
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